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What Apple’s iOS 15 update means for email tracking


Apple has announced the latest changes to iOS 15, which will block open tracking in the email. This will come as a shock to many email marketers. And while it may not be the most popular opinion, but I am actually excited!


“In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.” – Apple Press Release June 7

How will this affect you?

  • Your Email Open Rate reporting will be less accurate. Globally, the Apple Mail app represents around 11% of email users. You should still do an analysis on your customer population, but you can assume that 11% of email opens will be attributed incorrectly. How this will be reflected in your reports will depend on the way Apple implements this restriction technically. It could either mean that simply no opens will be tracked, but it could also mean that all emails sent to the Mail app will be tracked as opens automatically. Either way – giving you an incorrect result.

  • Automated campaigns that rely on open events will not be as effective on the Mail app. For example, any campaigns where you are sending a follow-up after someone has not opened in a predefined time will not be as effective.

  • It will have an impact on existing RFE (Recency, Frequency, Engagement) segments, if you are solely relying on your email platform to calculate these segments.

  • In the longer term, it will also have an impact on deliverability. RFE segments based on email engagement are crucial for maintaining high deliverability rates, as you should not be sending emails to customers that are not engaging. However, if you are no longer able to tell who is opening your emails you will either risk continuing to send emails if they are not engaged or will stop sending email although they are reading your emails, but are not clicking through.


Are there workarounds?

Yes, there are workarounds! Unlike with cookies, there is no industry standard for the way tracking tags are applied in emails. The technology is the same, but the way different email marketing vendors choose to implement those tags is different. This makes it hard for Apple to apply a blanket block on all tracking tags.


As email open tracking tags are effective images, the only way for Apple to prevent this entirely is by storing/caching all images on their own servers. This would be highly inefficient and wreak havoc with open-time email personalization technologies. Assuming Apple does not go down this road, they would just be blocking images that they assume to be tracking tags. This will result in yet another industry whack-a-mole with technology vendors trying to bypass the blocking and Apple looking for new ways to block.


What should you do?

  1. Create a segment of all newsletter subscribers that opened an email on the Apple Mail app in the last 6 months and continue to monitor their open rate performance against the rest of your audience. You also may want to do a deeper analysis to see which of those users only ever open emails on the Mail app, as some users may be reading their emails on multiple devices.

  2. Build automated workflows that will automatically add Mail app users to the Apple Mail Segment. You can do so by leveraging adaptive design techniques to show certain links only for iOS users. Those users that click on iOS-specific links, but do not generate email open tracking events can be assumed to be Mail app users.

  3. Review your automated campaigns and if some of your workflow nodes use email open events – add a separate nurture track for Apple Mail recipients to prevent them from receiving too many messages.

  4. Send shorter post-card emails to Apple Mail users with a single CTA to reveal the entire message or encourage them to click through to the website to view prices.

  5. Adjust your RFE segment scoring rules to only include click events for Apple Mail recipients.

  6. Ensure your current vendor attributes open events to clicks automatically. If someone has clicked on the link in the email, you can safely assume that they have opened it.

  7. Use this as an opportunity to improve how you are measuring your email performance and go beyond average open rate metrics.

This sounds like a mess, so why are we excited?

I have always believed that consumer privacy choices should come first, therefore more privacy choices is a good thing! At Mapp, marketers have always been able to adjust tracking settings in line with their consumer privacy choices, rather than tracking everyone by default. Later this year, we are launching an additional set of features that allows our customers to track campaign performance results without the ability to identify individual consumers.


I also believe that email marketing KPIs need a major shake-up, as there is far too much emphasis on the high-level KPIs. Improving your email marketing performance based on deliverability, open and click rates is equivalent to improving your personal health purely by measuring your weight. Email is so much more than a channel that drives traffic to your website.


If you are considering what your marketing KPIs should look like and how to deliver insight-led customer experiences, I highly encourage you to watch a webinar I did earlier this year with our friends at The Drum: Email Marketing: Are You Measuring It Wrong?


This article was first published by MAPP. Permission to use has been granted by the publisher.


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